Feb 21, 2009

NM mayor: DoD won’t gain control of labs

By Heather Clark - The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayor Martin Chavez said after a visit to the White House on Friday he thinks an idea to transfer the nation’s nuclear weapons complex from the Department of Energy to the Defense Department has been averted.

Chavez and mayors from around the country met with President Barack Obama to discuss the economic stimulus package and talked with a handful of Cabinet secretaries, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Chavez says he talked with Chu about the Obama administration’s plans to study a transfer of oversight of the labs, including Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, to the Pentagon.

An Office of Management and Budget memo made public earlier this month directed the two departments and the National Nuclear Security Administration to study the idea and report back by Sept. 30.

“I think that one is nipped in the bud,” Chavez said of the idea.

New Mexico’s congressional delegation — particularly Democratic senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall — have been staunchly opposed to the idea, saying such a transfer would severely limit the scope of the labs’ work on renewable energy, homeland security, nuclear nonproliferation and other issues. Chavez also is opposed to the idea.

Chavez says Chu “was very sensitive to those concerns.”

Jude McCartin, a spokeswoman for Bingaman, said the senator also has spoken with Chu and has had three conversations with OMB director Peter Orszag about his opposition to any oversight transfer.

McCartin said Bingaman expects to hear back “very soon” from the OMB about whether officials intend to study a shift in oversight or whether the focus would be changed to how effective the NNSA has been in overseeing the labs and integrating with the DOE.

“We have not yet heard back from the OMB with the final answer on how they intend to proceed, but we’re going to continue to work with them until they have an official response,” McCartin said.

She called the idea “pretty much a nonstarter” because it would require legislation and Bingaman has found no support in Congress for the proposal.

However, Udall “remains extremely concerned” about the proposal to transfer the labs to the DOD, his spokeswoman, Marissa Padilla, wrote in an e-mail Friday. He, too, has spoken with Chu, Orszag and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“Senator Udall will continue fighting against the ill-conceived shift proposed in the leaked OMB memo so New Mexico’s labs can continue to grow their missions,” Padilla wrote.

Chu, who was formerly employed by the University of California, has limited his direct involvement in overseeing contract, financial and certain work performance decisions at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore labs, which are managed by UC, to avoid potential conflicts of interest.


Anonymous said...

Im not sure Mayor Chavez is a major player, or spokesman for these issues. With our new Congress anything, I mean any thing is possible.....Transfering the Lab's to DOD is only a small move in their effort to shrink the entire weapons program, beware , the next idea coming down the pike may be even more radical then simply putting us under the DOD.

Anonymous said...

Could someone please explain to me again why we need *two* nuclear weapons labs?

Anonymous said...

One to do the physics, and one to do the engineering. Your question should be why do we need *three* nuclear weapons labs.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, 10:11.

I've rephrased my question on the "A Safe, Secure and Dwindling Arsenal" post.

Anonymous said...

Too bad.

Moving under DOD might not have been the greatest, but it would have shook up the mindless NNSA bureaucracy

My concern is that killing this idea may also kills attempts to reform and improve life for the national labs controlled by NNSA.

I think everyone working at these labs - especially LANL and LLNL - would agree that NNSA is a complete and total failure.

Any counter a opinions on this blog?

Life at the DOE science labs is improving while life at the NNSA science labs has become a joke.

Any real ideas on this blog on how to save LANL?

Anonymous said...

11:32 --

The time for "saving LANL" came and went in 2004. There was a real opportunity for the employees to band together and demand of our Congressmen and Senators that they put a halt to the damage which Nanos, with the complete blessing of NNSA, was doing to the lab.

Instead of doing the right thing, LANL staff -- to the 99.99 percentile -- demonstrated total cowardice.

Bottom line is that the good folks at LANL are getting exactly what they deserve. Don't expect sympathy, you haven't earned any.

Anonymous said...

11:42 AM,

I'm not looking for any sympathy... I'm looking for concrete ideas for saving LANL from NNSA rule.

The past is just that - the past. It's the future that interest and motivates me!

Anonymous said...

"Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it."

George Santayana

Anonymous said...

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

John F. Kennedy


"The future influences the present just as much as the past."

Friedrich Nietzsche

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sen. Bingamin is on the record in calling NNSA a failure. So what is his solution? Keeping the status quo going? Enabling NNSA to be cut free so it can become an even bigger failure?

These politicians have no idea how deep the scientific rot has spread throughout the NNSA research labs. They are dieing and the morale is abysmal. And look where we are right now... LANL and LLNL are both being run largely by a seedy, for-profit CONSTRUCTION company (Bechtel) which was selected by a highly dysfunctional NNSA!!!

Is this any way to run a "crown jewel" National Lab that watches over our US strategic nuclear defense?

Anonymous said...

Since when did we start letting mayors control US national defense policy? Mayor Chavez needs to butt out of this whole policy discussion.

Furthermore, Dr. Chu need to begin issuing statements that clearly delineate how he feels about this subject. Weapons are 2/3rds of his DOE budget. He can't remain coy for much longer.

Time to take off the scientist's hat, Dr. Chu, and become a leader. It's what you were hired to do.

Anonymous said...

Some quotes of Dr. C. Paul Robinson and Frank Young of the shift of nukes from DOE/NNSA to DoD:

-- "After years of resisting any suggestion to put the weapons program under Pentagon control, I now think the Department of Defense should take the whole nuclear weapons program." (Robinson)

-- "The combination hasn´t worked well for either one (nuclear weapons programs or the DOE)," and "It hasn´t been a good marriage." (Robinson)

-- "There´s far too much work to be done even if you concentrate your energies just on energy." (Robinson)

-- "NNSA has focused on optimizing security and safety, and they think that´s enough," and "There is a wonderful postulate that it´s impossible to optimize a total system by concentrating on optimizing its sub-systems. I believe the right answer is to align the whole mission." (Robinson)

-- "The missions do need to be aligned, because nuclear weapons have been so far outside of DOD, and there´s been so much distance between the two that they´ve become disconnected." (Robinson)

-- "I think it´s a great idea," and "Compared to the way I was treated in DOD, DOE was just horrible. There´s a culture in the military - you take care of your people, or your career is over." (Young)

-- "You can still have multi-agency labs," and "There may be some belt-tightening, but that´s happening now." (Robinson)

-- "I think doing this would give the (nuclear weapons) mission the right emphasis." (Robinson)


(I agree in the quotes by Robinson and Young.)

Anonymous said...

Nah, 9:28 PM, let's listen to Mayor Martin Chavez. He apparently knows far more about the state of the US nuclear weapons complex than Paul Robinson, who was only the former Director of Sandia and former head of the nuclear weapons Directorate at Los Alamos. Yeah, Marty knows best.

Anonymous said...

One to do the physics, and one to do the engineering. Your question should be why do we need *three* nuclear weapons labs.


Anonymous said...

"...Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future..."

"Always like to try all three delights of female White House visitors..."

John F. Kennedy

Anonymous said...

The real failure are the self-absorbed, broken-spirited baby boomers, who are likely to become the "dumbest" generation. Congress oozes incompetence confusing ideals with reality, relegating sacrifice to others, and seeking the next feel good F**k.

A sad member of the "dumbest" generation

Anonymous said...

'and seeking the next feel good F**k.

A sad member of the "dumbest" generation"

So dumbest generation are boomers, Xers, or Y-gens?

How do you know it was not the losers from the 20's?

It could also be the 1880'ers. They where pretty dim, look at Custard a real dips*t.

The people from 1820s are also high on that list. I think more boomers can read than that lost generation.

I know the boomers are special so they have to be "the dumbest" not just one of the somewhat less steller.

Anonymous said...

7:57 am : "It could also be the 1880'ers. They where pretty dim, look at Custard a real dips*t."

Look at yourself, asshole. "Custard"??? What, your favorite dessert your Mommy makes? "Where" vs. "were"? Were you asleep, or just stoned through high school? Talk about dim...

Anonymous said...

I can see the headlines now:

"Mayor Marty Chavez Saves the NM Labs!"

Next step?... Governor of New Mexico!